I want to write this letter to someone in particular but I can’t reach them because of reasons.

Everyday Life

Dear B–

I once asked you to describe containment in the hopes that words would become a tangible net or spell and I would be safe forever.

Now, instead of a chrysalis I want:

Emptiness

Extreme space

I want open sky

I want rolling storm clouds and I want to feel the sting of every piece of hail as it strikes the ground (it’s still cold here, still winter–mostly).

But even though I have room to run now my brain is still caught in this weird mind snare that maybe was always there, I don’t know how long I’ve been walking around not noticing.

I’m having some problems and creative outlets help but I still have this awful hollow feeling in my chest and maybe if my body dissolved in the river or the obscenely wonderful streaky pink sunset I’d feel better.

So I want to know, now, even though I don’t feel very proper asking you (it’s not about protocol it’s that there’s so much more going on in the world and it’s President’s Day) but I’d love to know your feelings about the open sky and how you would illustrate the opposite of containment.

Call it freedom if you like

Call it emptiness

Call it a void

Call it silence

Call it the loudest noise in the world, a volcanic eruption

Call it whatever it is that you need to feel a lack of containment.

Sincerely yours,

Jessica

Note: This is an open letter. I’d love to hear/read anyone who wants to answer. Thanks.

Writing Advice #2

Writing Advice

Writing can be scary.

Or more specifically, writing, or expressing yourself creatively comes with a lot of extra negative thoughts.

(Writing itself can be scary too, do you dare express yourself? Do you want to let everything out that’s been trapped behind the locked door?)

One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned is you need to run towards the things you are afraid of.

Obviously, not burning buildings if you are afraid of fire, but when you want something and you’re afraid to go get it, you need to go get it anyway.

You have your stories and your poems in your brain and you want to EXPRESS them, you want to let them out but then all the BUTs and SELF-DOUBT and REJECTIONS come in and those can really weigh a person down.

Or you think that after you’ve finished your masterpiece, after you’ve poured all of your blood, sweat, and tears onto the page and actually made a thing, the world will look at it and go: that’s awful. Or you’re afraid you won’t get published or you won’t make any money and you’ll either be a starving artist forever or suffer working at a job you hate just so you can get by and write more crap.

Then you have your relationship to your stories and poems, one day you love them and the next day you hate them and you think they’re crap.

Sometimes when I write, memories come up that I don’t want to remember and sometimes writing doesn’t make me feel happy or safe but I still really, really want to do it, I want to finish that project, I want to write more.

But ultimately, even though it’s scary, writing is something you can throw yourself into. Because writing is something you love to do, even if it makes you feel bad sometimes.

If you can find a 9-5 job that does the same thing, a job that fills the hole in your soul, then do that too. But if the only thing that fills that hole is writing, don’t give up just because it doesn’t pay the bills or because you think you aren’t “good” enough.

There’s lots of bad writing out there but I think that there are more unfinished projects in the world than there are bad writers and you shouldn’t care about whether someone else thinks your writing is good or bad, if you think it’s good you need to stick with it and keep going.

If you think your writing is bad then it’s up to you to fix it, and guess what, you CAN fix it because it’s your story and it can be whatever you want it to be.

So don’t let the negative thoughts get you down. Go write.

Direction

Fiction, Lupercalia

Take the splintered memory of your father beating you from between your mother’s clenched teeth. If you can still hear his voice, go west. You will come to a ditch cradling a dead cat. If his neck is twisted, proceed north. If his belly is split open like a rotten orange under a motorcycle wheel, go south; you will find the driver’s bloody bootprints scuffing the Black-Eyed-Susans. If you mix the pollen with loose-leaf tobacco and roll a cigarette, your doppelgänger in another universe will be gifted a front row seat to the next public execution. But that is not the direction you want to go. If you ignore me and walk towards the old Civil War battlefield marked with the city’s slapdash attempts at historical preservation, your old lovers, wherever they are, will turn pail as if a nurse has taken too much life force away from the abrasive latticework of a failed experimental procedure. You taste blood in your mouth. They will fall to the floor and you will not be there to kiss the languor from their eyelashes. If you don’t see a dead cat, continue west as if nothing is wrong. You will eventually come to a fork in the road. Or a river. And you must either cut off all your hair or throw your clothes into the Salvation Army donation bin that washed up on the riverbank with the rest of the hurricane detritus and proceed with your own body acting as a trembling neophyte’s compass pointing towards the sharpest point away. If fear clamps down on you so hard your ribs creak and snap against your heart, you can choose a different direction. You can run, screaming, back home or you can try to walk on water.

Little Girls

Fiction, Lupercalia

They carried the baby bird wrapped in a yellow, flowered handkerchief. Its eyes bulged behind their closed lids and its prickly down barely covered the stubs of its wings. The wrinkly peach flesh was damp with perspiration and plant juice. It choked and twitched feebly, beak broken open.

“We’re going to operate now,” said the little girl in the red corduroy dress. Her glossy, black shoes were scuffed and muddy and her little white tights had been ripped by the holly bush. There were no lights in the attic but the mother had given them three candles with the stipulation that Make Believe was not allowed to knock the candles over and burn the house down.

The two girls scooted past boxes and trash bags filled with grown up things and tiny baby things from times they could not remember. They were like bright fishes, easily distracted by strange colors and strange noises. They crawled on three child’s paws: two dirty knees apiece, on dirty hand apiece, tipped with chewed nails.

“On the operating table,” said the little girl in the red dress. She snatched the handkerchief from her companion and slammed it down on one of the boxes.

“Scalpel!” she cried.

Her companion picked up the handkerchief and lifted it to her nose. There was something there that reminded her of earthworms and pill bugs, like the juice that dripped from the knife to the kitchen floor, like the scolding she received when she stayed out in the sandbox past lunchtime. She reached into the pocked of her blue shorts and held out a sprig of holly.

How to Build a Nest

Lupercalia, Poetry

1. As a bird that has no hope.

Embrace the numbness in your hands, the writhing micro-fractures in your ribs as they grow into bright veins of quartz and agate, burst into winged fractals when no one is looking.

2. As a bird that thinks she has a lot of hope but really has none.

Choose the number of vertebrae you’d wish your favorite enemy to take out of your spine and treble it, if you are brave. That is the number of shiny things you must gather to attract a mate and keep yourself sane. Learn to make up the lines of poems you can’t remember. The dead won’t mind and the living are too preoccupied to care.

3. As a bird that has reached that powerful space beyond desperation.

Don’t be afraid to create with your teeth. Blind them with your claws, dive down their throats. This technique may not promise survival but in this way you can make beauty out of whoever tries to kill you.

I Love You (2)

Lupercalia, Poetry

If I cross my middle finger

over my forefinger

I am wishing for luck.

If I cross my forefinger

over my middle finger

I don’t want them to hear us.

If I tap 2 fingers twice

against the door hinge

on the way to the kitchen, don’t

eat anything they give you.

If I touch my broken

right pinkie to my thumb

I am wishing to die.

If I put my hand

on your knee underneath

the table, I am trying

to choke hysteria.

If I tap 2 fingers twice

on my coffee cup,

the spider lilies are blooming again.

If you see me

punching the paisley wallpaper

over and over again,

I don’t want to talk about it.

If I brush my fingers

across my lips as I casually

adjust my glasses

I am begging you to be quiet.

If I hold my hand this way

the rain came in last night

and flooded my room.

If I hold my hand that way

they are still searching for

your body, the place

where they insist

you drowned.

If you run your fingers

across my knuckles and my

breath catches in my throat,

I love you.